Asian Regionalism and US Policy: The Case for Creative Adaptation

The United States belongs to various organizations and networks that encompass countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.  The East Asia Summit (EAS) is not among them.  Should the US try to join?  This paper answers that question with a qualified yes:  Despite formidable difficulties affecting President Obama’s schedule of foreign travel, his administration should try to “ease” the US into the Summit, initially as a guest of the host country.  Eventually, pending a review of the EAS’s prior performance and future prospects, the administration may wish to upgrade that status to membership.  The paper uses this case to illustrate larger themes, discusses the relevance of frameworks other than the EAS, and recommends, between radical innovation and benign indifference, a policy of creative adaptation to regionalism in East Asia.

Note:  In July 2010 the Obama administration announced that it would, in effect, ease into an affiliation with the EAS.  The initiative would include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's attendance at the Summit in Hanoi in October 2010 and could include a trip by President Obama to the 2011 Summit in Indonesia.